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What's In a Name?

He served, taught his community

Cal Dickson once ranked as a top tennis player, but his real love was teaching the game. The teacher ran programs for kids.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

Towering at 6 feet 7, Cal Dickson defied conventional tennis wisdom. Rather than rush the net and smother attempted passing shots with his huge wingspan, he preferred to stay on the baseline.

But Dickson did use his height advantage for one thing. "He hit serves at you like a bullet," said Jack Bryan, a veteran city tennis pro and frequent opponent.

In the early 1950s, Dickson was ranked in the top 35 U.S. tennis players. He played many tournaments around the country, including the U.S. Nationals, today known as the U.S. Open. He was city champion five times.

A lifelong Tampa resident, Dickson graduated valedictorian from Hillsborough High School in 1942. He played tennis for Rollins College in Winter Park, where he also earned bachelor's degrees in chemistry, math and English. Later he earned master's degrees in math and English from the University of Alabama.

Though he was a longtime math teacher for the Hillsborough County school system, Dickson's overriding passion was teaching tennis. He ran numerous free clinics and programs for schoolchildren throughout the city. He was a longtime director of the defunct Junior Dixie Invitational, held at the old Davis Islands Tennis Club.

He died in 1977 at age 53. The following year, the city tennis complex at Watrous and Grady was renamed for him.

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